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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/B/080
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1855-1987
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 480 production units.
Name of creator(s): Exchange Telegraph Co Ltd | news agency


Administrative/Biographical history:

Exchange Telegraph Company Limited was incorporated on 28 March 1872 to transmit business intelligence, including stock and share prices and shipping news, from stock or commercial exchanges and offices of the company to subscribers. Its founders were Sir James Anderson, former captain of the "Great Eastern", which laid the first submarine telegraph cable beneath the Atlantic in the late 1860s, and an American, George Baker Field. Lord William Montague Hay was the first chairman and Captain W H Davies, former first officer of the "Great Eastern", became the first managing director.

A licence was obtained from the Postmaster-General to carry out ETC's system of telegraphy within a 900 yard radius of stock exchanges in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin. Agents were appointed in Manchester and Liverpool.

The first service (the financial service) began in November 1872 when an operator was placed in the Settling Room of the London Stock Exchange, and tape instruments were furnished to members and non-members of the Stock Exchange. In October 1874 a system was introduced whereby subscribing firms could send, through nearby Bartholomew House, messages to their representatives on the floor of the Stock Exchange, and those representatives could get in touch with their offices. The system continued in use until the old Stock Exchange building closed in 1970. A parliamentary service was begun in 1876 and a general news service in 1879. The latter included sport and foreign news. In 1882 the Glasgow and Liverpool Exchange Telegraph Companies were launched. In 1891 a legal service was instituted, reporting from the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand.

By 1906, ETC had branches in Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham.

In 1907, a new fast financial service was begun by Frederick Higgins (ETC's chief engineer from 1872 until his death in 1915), with new, faster-working instruments of his own invention. The objects of the company were extended in 1913 to include the collecting and distributing of news worldwide, and the undertaking of advertising agency business. A statistics service was begun in 1919, to produce compact sources of information about the main activities and financial position of individual companies (these sources are now known as Extel cards). In the early 1930s, a new fast special sporting service was introduced, using page printers manufactured by Creed, Bille and Company. The foreign service closed down in 1956, and the parliamentary and general home news services closed down in 1965, as these had all proved uneconomical. Also in 1965, ETC withdrew from the joint law service which it had operated with the Press Association.

The company was involved in many legal battles, chiefly libel and copyright cases, but its fiercest and most protracted quarrel was with the Press Association. Competition between the two agencies in the reporting of sport led to a rate-cutting war in 1905. They signed, on 3 July 1906, the Joint Service Agreement, whereby they were to run joint services in all areas except London, but there were difficulties in working the agreement. The matter went to arbitration and it was not until about 1911 that the joint service began to work effectively. ETC began to build up a group of subsidiaries from 1945, when it acquired the Press Association's interest in Central News Limited (including the Column Printing Co Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary), which they had controlled jointly since 1935. Thames Paper Supplies, of Curtain Road EC3, was acquired in 1948, and the Victoria Blower Company Limited, which operated the 'Blower' telephone service for bookmakers from London and Leeds, in 1954.

In 1962, ETC bought the London and Provincial Sporting News Agency Limited, and in 1964 acquired Burrup, Mathieson and Company Limited, printers (est. 1628). In 1966 the group was reorganised. Exchange Telegraph Company Limited changed its name to Exchange Telegraph Company (Holdings) Limited and became the parent holding company of the group. It became Extel Group Limited in 1980 and Extel Group Plc in 1982. In 1987 the group was taken over by United Newspapers Limited.

ETC had offices at 11, Old Broad Street, April-July 1872; 17-18 Cornhill, 1872-1919; 64 Cannon Street, 1919-57 (and 62 Cannon Street from 1922); and Extel House (formerly Island House), East Harding Street, 1957-87. The company also opened a West End office at 8 Piccadilly in December 1876.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of news agency Exchange Telegraph Company Limited, including:

1. Constitution; operating agreements, Mss 22956-61;
2. Board and AGM minutes etc; annual reports and accounts, Mss 22962-9;
3. Papers relating to lawsuits, Mss 22970-4;
4. Internal financial and accounting records, Mss 22975-23012;
5. Records of subscribers, Mss 23013-24;
6. Correspondence (subdivided as follows):
(i) Miscellaneous early correspondence, Mss 23025-7;
(ii) Correspondence etc relating to dealings with the London Stock Exchange, Mss 23028-32;
(iii) Correspondence etc concerning the sports services, chiefly horse racing, Mss 23033-41;
(iv) Correspondence etc concerning relations with the Press Association Ltd, Mss 23042-8. 10;
(v) Papers of Wilfred King (chairman 1913-43), Mss 23049-51;
(vi) Papers of E C Barker (a director, 1913-33), Mss 23052-61;
(vii) Correspondence relating to arrangements with the BBC, Ms 23062;
(viii) Foreign correspondence (including Second World War correspondence), Mss 23063-6;
(ix) Correspondence concerning tariff rates, Ms 23067;
7. Examples of news transmitted and statistics service cards, Mss 23068-74;
8. Engineering and patents records, Mss 23075-94;
9. Publicity records, eg tariffs, circulars and application forms, Mss 23095-102;
10. Records of correspondents, wages and commissions, Mss 23103-6;
11. Photographs, Mss 23107-15;
12. News cuttings, Mss 23116-25;
13. Miscellaneous (chiefly historical notes and records of subsidiaries), Mss 23126-35;
14. Records of the joint services of ETC and the Press Association Ltd, Mss 23136-57;
15. Miscellaneous items presented by BT Archives, Ms 38642.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Records arranged by MS number, assigned during cataloguing at the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section.

Conditions governing access:

Access by appointment only. Please contact staff.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to this collection rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

In August 1987 the archives of Exchange Telegraph Company Limited, 1872-1966, also a set of annual reports and accounts up to and including 1987 (Ms 22968), were presented to the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library. The records include deeds from 1855 and a photograph album from 1869 which predate the existence of the Company. Two further items (Ms 38642) were presented by BT Archives in 2007 which are not formally therefore part of the company archive, but have been included herewith. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Copies of J M Scott, Extel 100: the Centenary History of the Exchange Telegraph Company (Ernest Benn 1972) and George Scott, Reporter Anonymous: the Story of the Press Association (Hutchinson 1968) are held by Guildhall Library Printed Books Section.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
November 2010 to January 2011.

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